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In re C.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.M., Minor Child, C.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his minor child. AFFIRMED.

          Sharon M. Wegner (until withdrawal) of Graham, Ervanian & Cacciatore L.L.P., Des Moines, and Jamie F. Deremiah of Flanagan Law Group, PLLC, Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Jane M. White of Jane M. White Law Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         The parents of the child in interest, born in 2014, have a history of substance abuse. The child and his parents came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in July 2016 upon information that the parents were using methamphetamine while caring for the child and frequently left the child with known drug users. The father admitted to daily use of methamphetamine. The mother denied any drug use but tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and marijuana.

         In August, the child was removed from the parents' care and placed in the temporary legal custody of DHS for placement in foster care. The child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance in September. Thereafter, the parents declined to engage in substance-abuse treatment and continued their use of illegal drugs. However, the father was admitted to substance-abuse treatment in November and was successfully discharged from the treatment program in January 2017. Shortly after his discharge, however, the father tested positive for drugs. The father struggled to be consistent with substance-abuse treatment and sobriety in February and March. The father did not heed the ensuing recommendation that he engage in intensive outpatient treatment. In April, however, the father engaged in regular outpatient treatment, which he successfully completed in June.

         In July, the juvenile court granted the father additional time to work toward reunification, finding the child could be returned to the father's care within six months if the father completed the following:

[A]ctively engage a sponsor and attend recovery support meetings; attend individual counseling regularly and follow recommendations; consistently attend interactions with child and engage in [Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency] services; maintain sobriety and provide drug screens as requested; actively participate in parenting classes; and maintain appropriate, suitable housing and demonstrate [an] ability to meet the child's needs.

         In early November, the father pled guilty to a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Later that month, the father was arrested on a charge of possession of methamphetamine, third or subsequent offense, and another charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. The father was granted pretrial release from custody on the condition that he complete a substance-abuse evaluation within fourteen days and comply with any referrals. Thereafter, the father violated the terms of his release and failed to appear for his arraignment; a warrant issued for his arrest.

         Before the father's legal troubles in November 2017, aside from his ongoing substance-abuse issues, there were generally no concerns about his ability to appropriately parent the child, and he was relatively consistent in attending visitations with the child. Thereafter, however, the father discontinued participating in services altogether. In its January 2018 permanency order, the juvenile court noted the current whereabouts of the father were unknown and modified its permanency goal from reunification with the father to termination of parental rights. The father failed to appear at the subsequent termination hearing. The juvenile court ultimately terminated the father's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017).

         The father appeals, [1] contending termination is not in the best interests of the child.[2] Our review is de novo. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018). "In considering whether to terminate the rights of a parent . . . [we] give primary consideration to the child's safety, to the best placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the child, and to the ...

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